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Drought leads to further water restrictions
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As a result of low levels at the Lake Varner and City Pond reservoirs, further outdoor watering restrictions have been announced and are effective immediately in accordance with Newton County's drought/emergency contingency plan.

All outdoor watering is now limited to the following schedule: Odd numbered addresses may only water their lawns between the hours of midnight and 10 a.m. on Tuesdays. Even numbered addresses may only water their lawns between the hours of midnight and 10 a.m. on Thursdays.

Outdoor water use is prohibited on all other dates and times.

According to a press release on the matter, the water level at Lake Varner is five feet below full pool level, meaning that the lake is 70 percent full.

City Pond is currently six feet below full pool level. Water flow from the Alcovy River - which is used to fill City Pond and the Williams Street plant - is so low that the Newton County Water and Sewage Authority is withdrawing four million gallons fewer than usual.

Based on a current average daily usage of 13 million gallons, the county has a 182-day water supply left according to the release.

Full pool level at Lake Varner is 701 feet above sea level. According to the county's drought contingency plan, when the first trigger level of 696 feet at Lake Varner is reached the plan must go into affect and a stage one minor emergency declared.

Newton County Water Resources Director Karl Kelley said the county learned they had reached the 696 feet trigger point when Lake Varner was measured Thursday morning.

However Kelley said that the county was in better condition than other parts of the state on account of the fact that it entered the drought season with full water levels at Lake Varner.

"We are in much, much better shape than many other counties," Kelley said. "But we want to stay there, that's why we wanted to start these restrictions now."

According to the county's drought/emergency contingency plan, there are three trigger levels. The county has reached the first minor trigger level. The second level will be reached if Lake Varner drops to 692 feet (meaning the lake is half empty) at which time the situation will become moderate in severity. The third level, which would establish a severe emergency state, is reached if Lake Varner falls to 687.5 feet.

Before the latest water restrictions, Newton County (and the rest of the state) was participating in the level 2 restrictions established by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division in April which allowed outdoor watering three nights a week for even and odd-numbered addresses.

The new ban on non-essential water use is intended to reduce the demand on water resources by 10 ten percent according to the county's drought contingency play.

Non-essential activities included in these restrictions are: lawn and landscape watering, pool/pond filling, car washing and recreational use.

Activities allowed under these restrictions include: commercial car washing operations, charity car wash events, public safety, emergency services and emergency facilities, industry and commercial use, commercial landscape operations (per the new Tuesday/Thursday schedule above), commercial nurseries and farming and livestock use.